Category Archives: History

Will the Circle Be Unbroken

Dick Barker at the oars with son Eric behind him.

My father, Dick Barker, died early in the morning on Monday, July 23rd.  He was truly one of the “Legends of the Snake”; he was the man who pioneered the 10 mile Deadman’s Bar to Moose float trip 50 years ago.  He started Barker-Ewing Float Trips with then partner Frank Ewing.  Even though he had long ago stopped guiding commercial floats down the river himself, he had still been able to take the oars in August of 2011 (at age 74) during the annual Snake River Funds “Legends” trip.  He was a true Master of the oars, and even pioneered a new channel during high water 2 years ago.  He had a talent for reading water like no-one else I have ever seen.  He will be greatly missed.

When he was away from the river, my father was also a folk singer, balladeer, and guitarist who co-founded the local Hootenanny with Bill Briggs in 1993.  As it happened, the evening that he passed was the annual Hootenenany at the Center for the Arts.  The Hootenanny Board was able to turn that evening’s performance into a fitting tribute for their “fallen” friend.  My brother, Eric Barker, took to the stage that evening… showing more courage and strength than I can imagine.  He sang one verse solo and then led the other performers into a group chorus of “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”.

And that is the theme of this year for us at Barker-Ewing Float Trips.  It is true that we lost our beloved owner, leader and father.  But our family and crew are going to carry on the traditions that Dick started these many years ago.  We are unbroken.

The very first boatman hired by Barker-Ewing was Verne Huser.  He used to joke that he was the hyphen in the Barker-Ewing.  This year, our newest guide on the river here in the park is Verne’s son, Paul.  Paul has floated many different rivers over the years, and worked for the Ewing’s commercially on the whitewater section of the river.  It is so fitting that he was the last guide that Dad ever hired, and with this 50th year, the circle indeed is unbroken.    ~Leith Barker

Dick Barker
March 16, 1937 – July 23, 2012



Filed under History, Rafting

Keeping Perspective – thank you, George Schaller

Everything seems so busy in July.  Tourists trying to soak in all that Grand Teton National Park has to offer, whether they have 3 hours or 3 days.  Road construction delays, testing everyone’s sense of patience and relaxation.  The sun is intense, the weather dry, with an occasional dynamic thunderstorm for dramatic effect.

And then someone like George Schaller comes along and wants to float down the Snake River.

George Schaller (2nd from right) takes a float trip down the Snake River with Barker-Ewing Scenic Float Trips.

If you don’t know who George Schaller is, just read the article in this week’s Jackson Hole News and Guide and imagine yourself, at 23, walking up to Olaus Murie and asking “hey, can I be a volunteer assistant on your expedition to Alaska?”  And don’t forget to imagine yourself in 1956.  No neoprene, or gortex gear to keep you comfortable, and no mp3 or idevice to keep you entertained.

Schaller’s conservation passion wasn’t limited to Alaska and the creation of the National Arctic Wildlife Refuge.  Central Africa, Tanzania, Nepal, Brazil, and China were just a few of the place where he worked, and advocated for conservation.  Mountain gorillas, mountain lions, snow leopards, jaguars, and panda bears have all been blessed by Schaller’s efforts. Add THAT to your resume!

And yet, when he joined Barker-Ewing for a scenic float through Grand Teton National Park, if you didn’t know what he looked like, you’d never know you were in the presence of greatness.  Such a kind and quiet individual.  Just like Mardy Murie. Jane Goodall (is there a pattern here?)

Thank you for the visit, George Schaller.  You reminded us why what we do IS so important–keeping the sense of wonder alive.  Congratulations on the Spirit of Conservation Award; it is more than well-earned, and deserved!


Established in 1963, Barker-Ewing Float Trips has been sharing the beauty and wonder of Grand Teton National Park with visitors from around the world for 50 years, floating beneath the Grand Tetons on the headwaters of the Snake River.

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Filed under Environment, History